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Japan OKs use of textbooks citing islands disputed with neighbors

This undated photo shows Japanese social studies textbooks. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan has authorized the use of elementary school textbooks that describe the country's position on two island groups disputed with China and South Korea for the first time, the education ministry said Tuesday.

The ministry screened the textbooks based on curriculum guidelines adopted in 2017 for the 2020 academic year from April 1, 2020, reflecting the position of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government on territorial issues.

South Korea reacted sharply to the move in Tokyo on Tuesday, releasing a statement that "strongly condemns the Japanese government's approval" of the textbooks and summoning Japanese Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine to stage a protest.

All six social studies textbooks to be used by fifth- and sixth- grade students say the South Korea-controlled Takeshima islets in the Sea of Japan, and the Japan-controlled Senkaku group of islets in the East China Sea claimed by China and Taiwan, are an "inherent part of Japan's territory.

Japan's claim to the Russian-held islands has already been taken up in elementary school textbooks. The islands are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology revises the curriculum guidelines roughly every 10 years.

The latest version in 2017 said that all of the islands and islets in the three areas are Japan's "inherent territories."

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